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A Life in Bloom


Spring is here in the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” a.k.a. Santa Clara County! And nothing could be more delightful than witnessing people like Amber Levine-Mickel, LSA resident and day program client, beginning to bloom in their own lives. The Mickel Family is very pleased with Amber’s many accomplishments since moving into LSA’s newest home in 2015, such as putting on her shoes by herself and cleaning her own private bedroom. Brian Mickel noted that since his granddaughter moved in, she’s really blossomed, saying, “She’s doing things that I just would not have thought she’d be able to do.”

Amber’s progress demonstrates the difference the LSA approach makes, since it plants the seeds of possibility – not inability. Nurturing staff utilize a personalized plan for each resident, helping them learn life skills, gain independence, and simply enjoy living their lives.

And Brian has noticed changes not only in Amber, but her roommates as well – much like any group of maturing young people. “All these things have come out of growing into the next phase of life,” he says.
“It’s really nice to see they’re following exactly the way a normally developing child would. They’re just off experiencing new things and it’s great.”

“All of the girls have progressed a lot. I know Amber certainly has.”
~Brian Mickel, Amber’s grandfather

In addition to nurturing Amber’s budding skills, the staff is cultivating community and helping residents blossom into a family, too. For example: Amber is hearing-impaired so everyone in her home is learning basic sign language to better communicate with her. Two staff members are even taking an ASL course and sharing the knowledge with the rest of the team. They practice using visual aids – sets of 10 signs on laminated placards hung from lanyards around their necks. Once a set is learned, 10 new signs are introduced, building on their vocabulary. “It is working so far,” says Jordan-Bennett staff member Willjean Franco. “[It] is helping them to communicate with Amber and [for her to] understand them as well.”

Indeed, LSA staff members are key to creating home for residents. Grandmother Sally Mickel praises the LSA team, saying, “Staff … seem to have the ability to look beyond the disability to the person. This is a rare quality and it gives us great pleasure to see this.”

LSA’s focus on skill-building fosters independence and allows relationships to flourish. Parents and family members can have a relationship with their loved one that doesn’t depend on being a 24-hour caretaker. “It’s kind of different to have a caretakerparent relationship than just a parent or grandparent relationship,” says Amber’s father, David Mickel. Brian agrees, “It’s nice because we have an adult relationship with Amber now as opposed to a
kid relationship.”

Amber’s new life in the Jordan-Bennett Home provides her with many opportunities to blossom and keep growing. “I just know that without LSA Amber’s life would be a lot different right now,” says David. “She would not have made the progress that she’s made in life in the last year and a half.” Brian adds, “LSA is the only [care facility] we found that fits Amber’s needs. We need more of these kinds of organizations for people like Amber to thrive!” 

From Executive Director Dana Hooper

Dana Hooper

Home 12 Update: The search is on!

We’re pleased to announce that the Home 12 campaign was a success and over $600,000 raised for a down payment on a new property! A huge thank you to all our supporters – whether you donated $12 or $1200 to become a Founding Member of the 1200 | Twelve Hundred Club – your generosity made Home 12 possible! In fact, this campaign was such a success we’ll be announcing some more exciting news soon, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we’re scouting the right property and ready to begin the exciting process of starting up another new home. We can’t wait to welcome new residents to the LSA family! Again, thank you to all of our supporters. Together we’re CREATING HOME * CHANGING LIVES!

If you have any questions or would like information please contact me at

Partner Spotlight: Furry Friends

Furry Friends

Even those who don’t have pets enjoy a snuggle from them every now and then, and LSA residents are no exception. LSA has partnerships with many great organizations, and one of them is Furry Friends, a group who brings pets to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, care facilities, and schools.

Every month, the folks at Furry Friends visit LSA’s Rivermark Homes for some pet-assisted therapy. “Many of the residents at care facilities have had to give up their own pets, so our visits allow them to experience the unconditional love that only a pet can provide,” says Anne Tiry, the Furry Friends webmaster. Susan LeRitz, LSA’s Rivermark Program Director, agrees that the pets have a positive influence on residents. “The dogs provide an environment that breaks down social barriers, and in some cases, alleviate fears,” she says. Most of the furry friends that visit are dogs, but the organization also has cats, a miniature horse, and even a miniature goat! LSA is grateful to have meaningful partnerships with organizations like Furry Friends to help enhance services for our residents.

Learn more about Furry Friends at

Join us for Magic Moments!

Jeano & Fred

If you haven’t checked out our website lately, you’re missing some uplifting stories about our lovely residents! We call it Magic Moments, and it’s a monthly blog series dedicated to capturing the simply wonderful moments our residents experience. The quick-to-read stories include photos and/or video.

Some of our greatest hits include:

Becky’s fun and festive New Year’s Day birthday party

Jenny and Steve’s sweet Valentine’s Day dinner

Fred and Jeano: LSA’s first married couple

Find all the MM posts on the LSA blog:

Don’t miss one more heart-warming Magic Moment!

Pedro Garcia

In Memoriam: Pedro Garcia

Pedro Garcia passed away suddenly on March 4, 2017, at the age of 55. He is survived by his wife, Ashley, their infant daughter Alexa, and a large extended family. Pedro worked at LSA since 2008 and was a beloved Home Administrator. His dedication and passion for helping others was witnessed every day at the Empey and Milton Homes and throughout his career.

Prior to LSA, Pedro worked at Agnews Developmental Center for 17 years with LSA Program Director, Angie Speulda. Recognizing Pedro’s skill and professionalism, she recruited him to help LSA open its homes for individuals with special medical needs. Pedro had been a doctor in Nicaragua before immigrating to the United States in 1988.

Possessing a kind and gentle way of connecting with people – especially those with disabilities – he was well-loved and respected as a man with a big heart. Pedro will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

2017 LSA Board of Directors

Greg Dalzell – President
Maurice Leibenstern – Vice President
Michael Phillips – Treasurer
Fran Goodwin – Secretary

Teja Devaru
Lorna Drope
Thomas Estrada
Mike Fodor
Kevin Haller
Maureen O’Donnell

John Pencer
Greg Pettey
Tina Underwood
Olenka Villarreal
Christine Wang

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